Agents are being urged to make use of a new marketing message from Norwegian Cruise Line to shift consumer awareness of cruise away from price alone.

The new ‘Cruise Like a Norwegian’ slogan is being introduced in all branding in an effort to further differentiate the company’s informal Freestyle cruising proposition from rivals.

Vice president and general manager international Francis Riley said the aim was to create a club-like following for the company and move away from an emphasis on retail discounts and pricing.

It comes as the line introduces a new agent booking engine to ease fly-cruise capabilities. Further improvements are due next March to assist agents with group bookings.

The UK remains Norwegian’s biggest market in Europe, although the line is now purely fly-cruise after shifting a ship from Dover to Copenhagen for northern Europe itineraries.

“We want more talk about what’s on board and the quality offered by the cruise industry and less about price,” said Riley. “The value for money proposition will be even more important in 2012.

“When discretionary spend gets squeezed people will still travel but they will look to try and ensure their once a year holiday is the best value. Cruising stands head and shoulders above other elements of the holiday sector in relation to that.

“Even in tough times, the cruise industry and us as a company has been very resilient and I see no reason why that should change.

“There’s always going to be a focus on price but we have to get out and talk about our product more and be less reliant on price as being the main driver.”

Riley revealed that UK business in 2011 had exceeded budget for the first time in many years despite the backdrop of a tough economic climate and increased European capacity. Summer 2011 saw Norwegian deploy its biggest ship Norwegian Epic for its first summer in the Mediterranean.

European capacity is being raised by a further 40% next summer with a fourth ship – Norwegian Spirit – and a second vessel in winter 2012-13. Riley reiterated the cruise line’s backing for trade distribution with no plans to follow Carnival UK’s controversial commission cut to 5%.

“We’re constantly looking at it but our view is that we work with travel partners in the B2B arena and we want to grow our business through that distribution,” he said. “We need every channel to work hard for us and at this stage it’s important that we get our travel partners to support us.

“At the end of the day we are not ex-UK and that makes a hell of a difference. We believe we offer very generous commercial terms and we believe we get the support of the trade and we have no plans at this stage to change that.”

Discussing the new brand ‘platform’, Riley said: “We want to educate and engage the trade about what freestyle cruising is all about. This is a good platform to have a dialogue with our travel partners about how they can use this to their advantage.

“We are absolutely committed to the trade one hundred per cent. We are in a business to business environment in the UK and Europe so this gives us another tool in the toolkit.”